Ballybrit Castle is a medieval tower house located in the townland of Ballybrit, on the outskirts of Galway city in Ireland. It is one of the many castles that dot the landscape of County Galway, reflecting its long and turbulent history. Ballybrit Castle was built in the late 15th or early 16th century by the Blake family, one of the fourteen tribes of Galway. The Blakes were a powerful Anglo-Norman family that dominated the politics and trade of Galway city for centuries.
Ballybrit Castle is located within the loop of Ballybrit Racecourse, a famous horse racing venue that dates back to 1869. The castle served as a defensive outpost and a residence for the Blakes, who were involved in various conflicts and rebellions against the English crown and other Irish clans. The castle was also used as a hunting lodge and a place of entertainment for the Blakes and their guests.
The castle was abandoned by the Blakes in the 17th century, following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland and the confiscation of their estates. The castle fell into ruin and decay over time. It is further suggested in folklore that there is an underground connection leading from the castle to a cave in the townland of Two Mile Ditch nearby.
Ballybrit Castle is a typical example of a tower house, a type of fortified stone building that was common in Ireland from the 14th to the 17th century. Tower houses were designed to provide protection and comfort for their owners, who were often wealthy landowners or nobles. They usually consisted of four or five storeys, with a single entrance at ground level and narrow windows on the upper floors.
Ballybrit Castle was originally rectangular in shape, measuring about 15 by 10 metres at the base. It had four corner towers or turrets, each with a conical roof. The main entrance was on the south-eastern side, protected by a machicolation (a projecting stone structure with openings for dropping stones or boiling oil on attackers). The ground floor was used as a storage area, while the upper floors contained living quarters, such as bedrooms, fireplaces and latrines.
The castle was built with local limestone and mortar, and had thick walls that could withstand attacks from small arms or artillery. The interior walls were plastered and whitewashed, and decorated with paintings or tapestries. The floors were made of timber or stone slabs, and covered with carpets or rushes. The castle was also equipped with a well, a garderobe (a toilet) and a bawn (a walled enclosure).
Ballybrit Castle is now a protected national monument under the care of the Office of Public Works (OPW). However, it is not open to the public and access is restricted. Despite its ruinous condition, Ballybrit Castle is still an important historical and cultural landmark in Galway city. It is a reminder of the rich heritage and legacy of the Blakes and other Galway families who shaped the history of Ireland. It is also a rare example of a medieval tower house that has survived in an urban setting.
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